What to Know About Cartilage Piercings

Medically Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on June 23, 2021

Cartilage piercings are a specific type of body modification. Most cartilage piercings are in the ears. Nose piercings may also go through cartilage. It’s important that you understand how to take care of the piercing so it heals correctly. 

Here’s what you need to know about how it can affect your health.

What Are Cartilage Piercings?

A cartilage piercing is a decorative hole in one of the cartilage-filled parts of your body. Any piercing of the stiff part of your ears or nose is a cartilage piercing.

Cartilage piercings take longer to heal than soft-tissue piercings through your earlobes or eyebrows. They may take anywhere from 4 to 12 months before they’re fully healed. Your body needs to work harder to heal the new hole because the jewelry goes through cartilage instead of just soft tissue.

These piercings heal from the skin inwards. That means you may think your piercing is healed before it actually is.

Impact of Cartilage Piercings on Your Health

Like any piercing, a cartilage piercing needs to be cared for correctly or it can cause health problems. All piercings are technically wounds. They need proper wound care to heal without complications.

A well-done cartilage piercing will be slightly sore to the touch. It will likely itch and ooze clear or white-yellow fluid that crusts on your jewelry. You may also notice minor bleeding and bruising or redness around the piercing. These are normal and will go away as the cartilage piercing heals.

Infection. Not every cartilage piercing is done well, unfortunately. Your piercing may get infected if it is done poorly or without unclean tools.

An infected cartilage piercing will hurt and can ooze a thick or smelly discharge that’s gray, yellow, or green. The pierced area may feel hot to the touch. It may also turn bright red or pink. Bad infections may even cause a fever, chills, and nausea. Talk to your doctor right away if you experience any of these symptoms.

Keloid scar. Whether or not your cartilage piercing gets infected, you may also develop a keloid around the area. A keloid is a type of raised scar tissue that looks like a bump around the hole.

Some keloids can be caused by infection. Others just happen. A keloid is not dangerous, but some people don’t like how they look. If you get a keloid from one cartilage piercing, you’re more likely to get them on additional piercings.

What to Expect From a Cartilage Piercing

When you choose to get a cartilage piercing, make sure you get one from a trained professional piercer. Professionals know how to sanitize their equipment and give you a piercing that will heal more neatly. 

Look for a state license or certification when you go to a piercing parlor. This ensures that your piercer knows what they’re doing.

Hygiene. Your piercer should provide a clean environment and use sterile tools to do your piercing. They should wear a pair of new disposable gloves during your piercing. They should also use each tool only once before sterilizing it. 

It’s better to go to a different piercer than risk an infection if you’re not sure whether your piercer is using safe methods.

It’s fast. The piercing itself will only take a few minutes. Your piercer will swab your skin with alcohol and confirm where you want the piercing. Then they will use a sterile needle or piercing gun to make the hole and place your new jewelry. They may have you remain sitting for several minutes to make sure you don’t get dizzy from the piercing.

Once your piercer is confident you’re feeling okay, they’ll give you information on caring for your piercing. Follow their instructions to make sure your new body modification heals correctly. This will also help you avoid infection.

How to Help Your Cartilage Piercing Heal

Once you’re home, it’s your responsibility to help your piercing heal. Here’s how to care for a cartilage piercing at home.

Clean your piercing. Cleaning your piercing regularly helps keep germs from getting into it. Gently clean the area around your piercing with gentle antiseptic soap and warm water, then rinse with water. Clean twice a day for best results.‌

‌Use a saline soak: Dissolving 1 teaspoon of table salt into a cup of comfortably hot water produces a saline soak. You can soak your cartilage piercing in saline several times a day. This will soften any crusted material and clean the area.

Don’t touch your jewelry. Touching your new piercing with unwashed hands before it heals is the best way to get an infection. Avoid touching your piercing unless you’re cleaning it.

Show Sources


American Family Physician: “Complications of Body Piercing.”

‌Cleveland Clinic: “What to Expect When Getting Your Ears Pierced.”

‌MAYO CLINIC: “Piercings: How to prevent complications.”

NCSL: “Tattooing and Body Piercing | State Laws, Statutes and Regulations.”

NHS: “Infected piercings.”

‌Riley Children’s Health: “Ear Piercing For Kids: Safety Tips From a Pediatrician.”

‌UC Berkeley: “Body Piercings: Cleaning and Healing.”

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